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MADURAI, INDIA, January 16, 2001: Dalit (untouchable) residents in a village in Madurai district of Tamil Nadu plan to convert to Islam, blaming it on social stigma and the state government's failure to meet their economic demands. "All Dalits in the village intend converting to Islam," said the local panchayat (village governing body) president, Murthy. "The upper castes don't respect us and untouchability is a curse when it comes to eking out a living," he explained. It is not only the illiterate among the Dalits who feel ostracized. Even a post-graduate from the village says that conversion is the only way out to ''buy social respect.'' Murthy said that over 25 Dalit families in the village intend to convert to Islam on Friday.